Chapter 13 – Looking Forward – A History of the New Thought Movement

Chapter 13
Horatio Dresser
A History of the New Thought Movement

“NEVER did mankind need the Truth as today.* In the last analysis, thought is the controlling factor in the universe and men will manifest that which they think in their hearts. The present war is the product of the old thought, as progress is the product of democracy. “The whole mental and religious worlds are shifting. The old thought has been tried as by fire and as ordinarily expounded by its professional teachers is found wanting. The world is seeking and demanding a constructive religion and philosophy that will make impossible all future catastrophes such as that which is now upon us.

*Compiled from the bulletin of the Alliance, June, 1918.

“This is the opportunity of the New Thought. To meet this opportunity, however, we must be prepared. The Alliance is an instrument of such preparation. To be effective, it must have your active support, and this support must be not only in your thought, but in outward manifestation. In other words, we want you to talk up the Alliance, to get members, to contribute financially and to induce others also to contribute. We should have in the field now at least one or two lecturers and after the war we should have many more. These lecturers should be paid so that they could be relieved of the need of holding private classes and could give their whole time to the work of supporting the Truth.

“This is your work. The Alliance is your instrument for giving the message to the world. We now have a foothold in many lands and are in a position to spread the gospel of health, efficiency, right-thinking and right-living. We can introduce all nations to the science of the Divine–the New Thought of God and of man–that is to make a new heaven and a new earth. We are making a definite call upon you to do your part. Open your hearts and the Spirit will strive with you mightily, as it has striven with us, to press forward in this great cause.

“The Alliance depends upon the Divine Supply and we are the avenues through which the Divine Supply manifests. We are teaching abundance and, therefore, must manifest the abundance we teach. Ours is the divinely appointed task of spreading the essential Christ Truths for the healing of the individual and of the nations. The fields are white to harvest. All of us must do our full part in preparing to spread the message. We have seen the vision and must give abundantly of our thought, of our time and of our substance to bring it into full manifestation.

“There is a divine urge in the souls of men toward a new and better humanity. All prophecy agrees that the great hour has struck for the ending of the old order and the beginning of the new. The new order must be built on the principles of the Christ. The old order failed because it did not live up to His ideals. Its service was a lip service. It did not do His commandments. These commandments were very definitely stated–heal the sick, love one another, minister to others, condemn not, have faith in the Divine Supply. The nations calling themselves Christian have flagrantly violated these commandments. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ The time has come when we must choose the one thing or the other, either Christ or Antichrist. If we choose Christ, it must be in no half-hearted way. We must do the works.

“The fruits of the Spirit are health, happiness, peace, good-will, faith, progress, liberty. The impulse of the Spirit is in our hearts to lead the world to reconstruction, regeneration and permanent peace. We should be ready to take the healing message to all who can receive and apply it. To do this most effectively, however, we must cooperate.

“The first requisite of efficiency is self-confidence–not over-confidence or vanity, but reliance in one’s own ability to accomplish the task in hand. Of course, knowledge and training are necessary, but beyond and above these a spiritual quality is required–the reliance on the absolute and perfect faith that with God’s help we can do the thing we have to do.

“This attitude of mind is an essential part of New Thought teachings. It is a part of the gospel of democracy. When men are free to use their individual initiative and inner resources, they at once become masters of their own destiny and their success or failure is in their own hands. Freedom alone is not enough unless it is accompanied by the ability, the spirit and the confidence to use it. Democracy plus New Thought make an invincible combination. Democracy frees the soul from man-made shackles and New Thought teaches it to depend upon the Divine.

“Thought is the most powerful force in the world.* It constructs all cities, all works of art, all machinery, all invention, all institutions and all states. These, however, are but its outward and obvious manifestations. It has subtle and more far-reaching results. It literally builds the body, molds the features, forms the character, controls the health, shapes the circumstances, and makes the fortune and the happiness or unhappiness of the individual.

*Compiled from the bulletin of the Alliance, April 16, 1918.

“In ways that are not yet quite understood, but that have been proved by numerous experiments and are accepted by a considerable school of scientific men, our thoughts influence the minds of others, for telepathy, or the power of mind over mind without the use of visible means of communication, is now a generally accepted fact.

“How important is it, then, that we send out only good thoughts. It has been said that we live not unto ourselves alone, but it can be said now with equal truth that we think not unto ourselves alone. If angels have influence over the minds of men, if the spirits of the dead guide, inspire and uplift the minds of the living, they must exercise this power through something akin to telepathic influence. We who are living, however, can exercise an equal influence for good. We, therefore, can be good angels to others simply by thinking lovingly, constructively, rightfully and truthfully of them.

“By setting aside a short time each day to think good thoughts, we serve a two-fold purpose. First, we improve our own minds and our own bodies; second, we send out invisible messengers bearing good tidings to the minds of others.

“Give the world a new thought of Christ. In the old thought all parts of the Bible have been held equally the word of God. In the New Thought, that part of the Bible containing the message of Christ is set on a plane above all the rest.* This new age is to be the Christ age, when the Son of Man is to come in the hearts of men. In the old thought we have been compromising between Christ and Antichrist. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ The present horror in which the world finds itself is not due to the failure of Christianity, because the world has not had Christianity of the true sort. It is only the failure of the half Christianity in which we have masqueraded.

*Mr. Edgerton’s statement in the above is in accord with Swedenborg’s view that “the Word” is more interior and spiritual than the Pauline and other Epistles.

“We have now come to the dividing of the ways. The Christ healing, the Christ love, the Christ faith and the Christ peace are to rule in the world henceforth and forever.

“It is the office of the New Thought to build the new temple on the cornerstone of the Christ. This is a spiritual universe. We are made in the image of God and are spiritual beings. We are not of the beast and have not his mark either on our foreheads, nor in our hands, and we must proclaim unto all peoples in all lands that a new hour has come, that a new day has dawned and that the light thereof is the Light of the World.

“The war is ended and the New Age is here.* The outcome is, perhaps, the most inspiring event of the history of the human race since the coming of the Son of Man. It is not only an end of this, the greatest of all wars, but with the right thought and right attitude on the part of the free nations, it will be the end of all war. It was not an accident that the New Thought and other kindred movements were born in this age. Rather it is the working out of the Spirit and the realization of the prophecy of the coming of the Christ in human consciousness.

*From the bulletin of the Alliance, December 1, 1918.

“This is the golden opportunity for Truth teaching. Never has there been a greater demonstration of the presence of God in the affairs of man. Never has there been a more signal evidence that this is a spiritual universe. The forward strides made during the war have been tremendous. Temperance, liberty, democracy, the rights of women, cooperation, efficiency, spirituality, faith in the right–all of these have been advanced, and, above all, a league of nations has been created that should be a guarantee of the reign of peace, of liberty and of righteousness throughout the coming ages.

“When the New Thought Congress met at Boston, the conflict was at its fiercest and no one could certainly prophesy the end. Yet it is a happy fact that more than fifty field secretaries were elected, a board of lectureship provided for and other steps taken that would meet the great need for work after the war. This is another signal proof of the working of the Spirit, for those present were unconscious that they were thus preparing for the great work that all felt would be done after the war. Most of them, if they expressed an opinion at all, thought that the conflict might last another year, yet today we are at the dawn of peace and have our campaign planned for the Great Drive for New Thought and the Alliance. . . .

“The first work in the New Age is that of reconstruction.* The nations torn by war and revolution must be rebuilt, the war’s staggering debt must be paid, the wounds of nature and of man must be healed, shattered homes and cities must be replaced, the shell-torn and burrowed earth must be prepared for tillage, new and more democratic governments must be elected, the place of labor in the social scheme must be determined, woman must be enfranchised and her place in the business and industrial, as well as in the political, world established, the nations must be associated to insure liberty and peace for the future and, more than all, the thoughts of men must be turned to the establishment of a greater and better civilization than that which so nearly ended in wreck in the world war.

* Alliance bulletin, February 1, 1919.

“The old time is as definitely dead as the old world that preceded 1914. The New Thought is the most vital thing now on this planet. In its philosophy is included the things most needed in the work of healing the nations and building the new order. In a word, this may be described as the essential teachings of the Christ. It was the neglect of these principles in the so-called Christian nations that was largely responsible for the failure of the old order. Henceforth all peoples must be taught to follow His precepts, not so much in form as in spirit and in Truth.

“Just now it is political settlement that is needed. Let us all hold that divine Truth is being manifested in the institutions and governments of men, that the political structure of the future is to be erected, not on the sands of materialism, but on the rock of the Spirit, so that if the storms again assail it, it will stand. Let us hold both the spiritual and the political vision, for the only freedom and the only peace are those that come of the Divine. We must heal the nations as we heal the individual by seeing them as manifestations of God. Let us hold further that there shall come those who will speak the new political gospel to all peoples, of brotherhood and peace, of justice and freedom, of righteousness and industry, of health and prosperity.

“The world republic is on its way. Earth’s greatest and happiest age is ahead. Let us hold the perfect vision of it in our hearts and thus help to bring it into manifestation.

“This is a spiritual universe and it will require a spiritual age to see it in the fullness of its beauty and power. Ear has not heard and eye has not seen what is in store for the human race right here on this planet. The storm is over and the sunlight is breaking in full splendor on the greatest and happiest era this world has ever known. The Christ is coming in the hearts of humanity.

“God is the only reality and man is made in His image. All that is real of us is of Him. When we think of ourselves as other than His, we are taking on unreality. When we think of ourselves as material or as subject to sickness, sin and death, we take on the unreality of the things we picture and this unreality disappears and so much of us as we have identified there with also disappears. The only things that are permanent in human history are those touched by the far-shining light of God’s purposes. God’s righteousness and Truth triumph forever. Let us sing to Him a new song in this New Day that is dawning–a song of healing, of brotherly love, of the building of a new heaven and a new earth.

“There are high and sweet and fine thoughts in the heart of the world today, and high and sweet and fine things will be manifested as the fruit of this thinking. In this New Age spiritual things are to become as matters of everyday–spiritual healing, spiritual communion, spiritual realization. After the crucifixion of humanity comes the resurrection. All the world is on tiptoe with the expectancy of mighty things, all the pulpits of Christendom are echoing to the prophecies of the second coming. Whisper this secret into the ear of their thought, ‘He is already here.’ Their very expectancy and the world’s need has called Him. He is incarnated in humanity and His mighty works of healing, of blessing and of redeeming are seen all over the earth, for we now know the Truth that He knew, that the Father in us doeth the works. God is the only reality and we are only real so far as we show forth His image and identify ourselves with Him and His works. All else is vanity.*

*That is, according to Mr. Edgerton, the second coming is just this spiritual awakening of which the New Thought is a part. This is in line with Mr. Evans’s view of the New Age in the earliest books on mental healing.

“It is contemplated holding a Silent Hour each day for healing and realization. . . . For the present it is suggested that each centre ask its members to hold a brief silence, say at the noon hour each day, for the healing of the individual and of the nations. Let this hour be dedicated to the realization of God. It is not necessary that any one individual give a full hour, or any other stated time, to this silence, but he should devote to it a brief time, even though but a moment, and this should be within the hour set. Let us on each day take some definite thought. The first, ‘God is Love’; the second, ‘God is Health’; the third, ‘God is the Only Reality’; the fourth,’God’s image is in me’; the fifth, ‘The Father in me doeth the works’; the sixth, ‘God’s kingdom is come on earth’; and the seventh, ‘The Christ is here in the hearts of humanity.’ Thus we have one thought for each day of the week. Let us think these thoughts all together with faith and with power and we can move the world. . . .”

At a meeting to commemorate the founding of the Metaphysical Club of Boston, in 1914, Mrs. J. A. Dresser indicated what seemed to her, as the oldest representative of the therapeutic movement, “the future for the New Thought.” The address was interesting because it gave expression to another way of interpreting the movement, in terms of its longer history. Mrs. Dresser said in part:

“We have come together from varied interests with one end in view. We stand for the ideal that a new life, a new philosophy is coming into the world. Some of us are interested in applying it to healing; others care more for the philosophical elements; others still for its mystic and spiritual factors; and some for the religious point of view it presents; but we are all united in the desire to interpret and to understand life as a whole in the light of it.

“As I look back through more than fifty years of experience I seem to see something of the wonderful leading of the divine providence, and I look forward with deepening interest to the future which is unfolding. I see how Mr. Quimby grasped the thought which we all call new. He saw that mind and soul are paramount, that thought is substance, and that even love has body, and a power to heal. He saw the physical as the body of the inner world and the temple of the soul, and like all founders of a thing so great, he saw more keenly, more clearly and with more rational view, than those who followed him, the value of these truths.

“You all know how it was with this great truth that Mr. Quimby brought to light–how Christian Science came, how many followed blindly into wide extremes and wild denials of the obvious facts of life, unbalanced in irrationality. You all know how the saner ones came back, and now you see the inevitable crumbling of that structure before the return of reason. And some of you remember the efforts, thirty years ago, on the part of those who had become interested in these truths—like my husband and myself, who had been students under Mr. Quimby’s care–to begin the movement that has led on to this day, and that has ultimately produced this Club and spread its influence over the land. That evening when this Club was formed, a few earnest men and women met to gain strength by unity.* We were seeking for just what Mr. Quimby had sought for years before–to understand the relation between the soul, the mind and the body, believing that in this lay the key to our relation to God and to all life–the very secret of philosophy.

*In February, 1895.

“During the years of Mr. Quimby’s practice of healing, he had sought for this scientific understanding. He had seen that mind is substance; he also saw that there is an intermediary substance between mind and body, and he called this ‘spiritual matter.’ He said this is the substance which receives all impressions both good and bad. This is the same intermediary substance which the modern scientist speaks of as the ‘subconscious’ mind–that Mr. Frederick W. H. Meyers called the ‘subliminal self’–that Swedenborg means by the ‘limbus’–that Dr. Morton Prince explains in his new book, The Unconscious.

“Mr. Quimby’s researches were directly in line with the best of modern scientific thought, and with the best philosophical teaching of the past. He hoped to reduce to a science his theory that man is here and now a spiritual being, and that this intermediary substance of his nature is the basis of all his happiness or misery. The divine flows in with all love, wisdom and power into every human soul, seeking embodiment there. In the supraconscious degrees of the mind it is received in its integrity. This is the kingdom of heaven within. In the conscious mind it is received only in part. When the divine finds forms corresponding to itself, there it lodges; but when the forms are out of correspondence it is perverted or lost. The life current is an active force; it is active, creative, formative. In the mind of man it must either build up or break down the divine image–God’s image in man, the very tabernacle of the divine life.*

*The speaker is here setting forth the therapeutic principle as derived from the writings of Swedenborg. See Mr. Evans’s The Mental Cure, p. 76 et seq.

“In the latter part of Mr. Quimby’s life he was seeing more and more clearly that man is an instrument and a constant receiver of life, not a self-possessor of it. And he believed that sickness and unhappiness are the result of man’s having closed the doors to the influx of divine life, and that health and happiness are regained by the process of re-opening them. By the understanding and acknowledgment of this relation with the Source of life, man finds his health, happiness and heaven. . . . [These statements] show clearly how this thought should go on. They show that to think well, to be rational, we must be open, we must seek the truth and face squarely our issues; we must deal in facts, in verities, and avoid mere beliefs and opinions, and affirm only what is true. . . . We hear it said that fears must be put away. A fear for the New Thought people to put away out of their doctrine and out of themselves, is the fear the frankest self-examination and acknowledgment of what is true in personal defects in ourselves or in others can do the slightest harm so long as the mind is fixed upon, and dominated by, God and the true ideal from Him. . . .

“The New Thought is an idealistic philosophy, its devotees are idealists. As individuals you are conspicuous for the ideals you hold, for the tenacity with which you hold them, and for the power which you ascribe to them. The New Thought movement more than any other in our day, stands for the affirmative attitude, and to it the world is indebted on that account. But its weakness has been that in its zeal for the affirmative it has forgotten the adage of the ancients–‘Man, know thyself.’ It has seen how paralyzing was the self-analysis and the condemnation of evil in the church of the past; and, in the endeavor to break away from every vestige of the negative, it has gone to the other extreme. My effort would be to help [the movement] to come back again, not to a negative point of view, but to the rational standard, and to face squarely toward the truth.

“I do not ask you to go to some one source to gain the insight which shall bring the rational basis for New Thought. . . . Let us all, as individuals, remember that it is in our lives that we must manifest our faith in the truth we have. We have only to set aside self-love, self-glory, and work earnestly in any cause, by every word and deed of love that opportunity offers, to find ourselves growing gradually in wisdom and understanding, and out of our Ills and every form of unhappiness. God is everywhere and always the same. He is present with His love, wisdom and power; and, as I have said, where there are forms in correspondence with Him there He flows in and is. Hence we may have that fullness of power present with us and in us. Therefore as He is in me with His transforming and renewing power, He can convert my conscious mind into harmony with the supra-conscious,–power to convert my subconscious mind and my body into harmony with the kingdom of heaven within, power when ‘my eye is single to fill my whole body with light.’

“I am the last of those who studied with the founder of this great movement; let me leave with you this final word: Remember all life, all goodness and all power come from God. The humblest shall be greatest, the last first, and he who seeks not for himself, but also longs to serve, shall reach the glory and the light. Affirm your capacity to receive love, wisdom and power from the Lord–affirm that truth–hold to that truth. So shall your life be full, and so shall you live your life in service, and find it gloriously in Him. The truth shall make you free.”

Chapter 14

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A History of The New Thought Movement

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